Jake Davidson likes smart, hardworking women. And he can thank his grandmother for that.
His enduring memory of Selma Davidson is walking into his father’s CPA firm in Sherman Oaks to be greeted by his grandmother, with her oxygen tank and magnifying glass, sitting behind a desk doing the books. It was Saturday.
“She worked until she was 90,” he said. “She couldn’t even walk at that point, but she was a hard worker.”
When she passed away in February 2018, Davidson wanted to honor her memory in some way. And having been the beneficiary of a full-tuition Mork Family Scholarship, Davidson knew he wanted to give back to USC. The ideas coalesced, and in September, he donated $100,000 to the Leventhal School of Accounting for a scholarship in his grandmother’s name.
“I think that is something that would have tremendously benefited my grandma when she was younger.” – Jake Davidson ’17, on the accounting scholarship he endowed in his grandmother’s name.
“One of the things I learned from the Mork Family Scholarship is how giving to the school can be life-changing, making college affordable and possible, so I wanted to start giving back,” Davidson said. “I’ve been lucky to have some small level of business success, so I wanted to set something up to honor my grandma as soon as possible.”
He also wanted to give a boost to women accounting students in need. “I think that is something that would have tremendously benefited my grandma when she was younger,” he said.
His Inspiration: Grandma
Selma Davidson was a single mom who raised three kids—who went on to become a CPA, a doctor, and a teacher, respectively.
“She didn’t come from anything and could not afford college,” Davidson said. “She was one of four sisters, and her parents didn’t encourage education…but she was really smart.”
It was his grandmother who helped nurture his entrepreneurial streak, driving him around at 15 to collect old electronic materials, which he then sold in China. As his company grew into Davidson Global Inc., he set up an office in his father’s firm, Davidson Accountancy Corporation, where Selma worked as office manager and bookkeeper.
“With this scholarship, my grandma’s name will live on forever,” he said.
‘A Massive USC Fan’
Davidson knew he wanted to attend USC when he was 5. “My dad is a huge USC football fan, and I grew up as a massive USC fan,” he said.
When he got here, USC was everything he had hoped. As the undergraduate speaker at his commencement ceremony, Davidson talked about what made his Leventhal experience special: the close friends he made, the “tremendous professors” (including Dean William W. Holder and Professor Rose Layton) and his “incredibly helpful” advisor Milli Penner.
“Pretty much everything I’ve been able to do is related to USC —a lot of my connections, the people I work with. The USC network has been unbelievable,” he said. “Everything I learned in terms of personal investments, looking at and analyzing the statement of cash flows and the income statement, and understanding how to work through a business, all have been extremely helpful.”
After starting a digital media business, Davidson said he managed social media accounts for athletes and celebrities. One of those clients knew he was an accounting major and asked his advice. From there, he got the idea for doing business management for athletes, “mostly former USC football players,” he said.
When he took a class with Annenberg professor Gabriel Kahn during his junior year, he learned that his professor’s father was the author and investor, Judd Kahn. He had read Judd Kahn’s book on value investing with the Value Investing Group at USC when he was a freshman.
“I asked my professor if he could connect us, and I flew out to New York to meet him the last semester of my senior year when I was looking at law schools. [Judd Kahn] was retired from the hedge fund business, but he was willing to mentor me and partner in a new business with me.” Rule 2 Investments now provides broad-based asset management services as well as running a proprietary value-based strategy focused on public equities.
Now a second-year law student, Davidson is working at his father’s firm to get his hours for the CPA exam. Then, as a CPA with a law degree and an entrepreneurial spirit, he has big dreams. “My goal is to continue to try to build DGI and Rule 2 Investments—this sounds audacious—but I’d like to build a portfolio of cash flow-producing companies and real estate investments, a smaller version of what Warren Buffet has created at Berkshire Hathaway.”
It’s a big goal, but one Selma Davidson would surely have encouraged.
He also aims to build his initial scholarship into a full-tuition ride for one very smart female accounting student. “I just would not have been able to do any of this without USC,” he said.